between trend, recommendation and promotion

On October 13, the social network TikTok organized the first “literary cafe” in Paris, one of the goals of the event was to illuminate the large community of readers who have taken over the tool. TikTok, a platform focused on sharing recordings of videos, more specifically dances and song mimes, is now giving a lot of space to books. And there are many groups.

Every day, thousands of videos about reading and books are posted on the social network using the #BookTok hashtag. According to TikTok statistics, as of September 30, 2022, 13 million videos have been linked to this category, with a total of 80 billion views.

France is no exception to this phenomenon: between January and September 2022, 376,000 videos carrying the #BookTok keyword were published by French users, which means 1.6 billion views. According to Médiamétrie’s figures for the end of 2021, 15 million unique visitors will use TikTok almost exclusively on mobile (91%) every month.

According to research by We Are Social and Hootsuite, TikTok is the sixth most used social network in France, ahead of LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. Users spend an average of 21 hours there per month, which is much longer than other networks, which should be attributed to the program’s fairly young audience.

Real impact on book sales

The passion for reading (at least the promotion of books) among social network users logically attracts the attention of publishers: these platforms are also important advertising relays for these companies.

TikTok’s growing popularity has been accompanied by these unexpected and dazzling successes for fairly obscure businesses. For example, in November 2021 Cain’s jawbone The book, published in 1934 by Edward Powys Mathers and recently republished, is getting strong exposure thanks to the success of a short video on social media.

However, an efficiency that is not unique to TikTok: Instagram also had its heyday with its Bookstagrammers – to quote, for example, The Invisible WallMarlene Haushofer’s ecofeminist science fiction novel (Actes Sud, translated by Liselotte Bodo), a huge hit on the web in 2019.

Measuring the influence of a social network is always complicated, because the direct influence of a publication is often combined with indirect effects – in parallel with the Internet, “traditional” word of mouth, articles that sympathize with success and help to reinforce it. .

BookNet Canada, a book statistics institute across the Atlantic, began the exercise in September 2022 and determined that 21% of Canadian book buyers use TikTok – the app is even more successful in English-speaking territories.

Based on these collected data, Cain’s jawbone Edward Powys Mathers experienced the biggest increase in sales after a #BookTok highlight: 235,600%, sorry, from October 2019 to June 2022. It ends with us Colleen Hoover (2016), with an increase of 42,133% from November 2019 to June 2022 and Shadow and Bone By Leigh Bardugo (2012), 6,769% better from September 2019 to May 2021.

Books in the latest collection benefit most from the #BookTok effect, especially books published within 2-5 years of promotion. Sales growth for these titles is most impressive, averaging 1,698%. This is explained by sales that are often at half-mast before the promotion, hence the effective knock-on effect. That’s why TikTok appreciates the old, but not too old anyway. The same observation was made by the Association of British Publishers in April 2022. continued growth in acquisitions of works from the collection since the pandemic.

BookNet notes that the books that top #BookTok’s popularity chart are aimed at adults or young readers. For mature readers, romance represents half of the titles while young people pay less attention to a particular genre: fantasy and literature with “social” themes share the plebiscites. According to BookNet, selling adult books benefits their sales more than the #BookTok effect.

Trends, discoveries and bestsellers

No study in France has attempted to measure the impact of TikTok on book sales. The platform still lacks these impressive success stories. Although the company highlights American poet Rupi Kaur’s collections in its literary cafe, the latter’s popularity comes primarily from Instagram.

Achilles song, by Madeline Miller, published by Pocket in 2015 (translated by Christine Auché) also had its heyday, but the French phenomenon simply followed the British trend. same for me We are liars E. Lockhart, who created the English-language trend (Gallimard Jeunesse, translated by Nathalie Peronny), was then adopted by French TikTokeurs.

about us The title by Stéphane Ribeiro, published in Livre de Poche in 2007, is the only Franco-French example that has been put forward with a very observable effect. 25,000 copies sold since debut at #BookTok in 2021. The influence lasted until 2022 and sold just over 13,000. His best year yet existence “, the title sold 36,000 copies in 2008.

@adeliinehrd Very happy with my purchase! ? #couple #fyp #book ♬ Someone you love – Lewis Capaldi

For the rest, it seems impossible to predict success: a highly watched emphasis House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski (Toussaint Louverture, trans. Claro) did not really affect the book’s sales. The same observation for love poems By Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Sibylle Muller, Circe), still advised by @entouteslettres, one of the creators of #BookTok, chosen by the brand for the literary cafe.

@carlabdx__ #booktok #fransızkitabgurdu #clubdeslecteurs #booktokfrance #fakebody ♬ SEVILLA – Thrife

The books that benefit the most from the TikTok effect are sometimes already bestsellers: for example, we find the often recommended Colleen Hoover, an author popular in Canada and the US, but also zero kilometersThree years after its publication by Maud Ankaoua (J’ai lu) (and six years after its publication in large format with Eyrolles), it sold over half a million copies and benefited from renewed interest after highlighting. influencing personal development, @melteconseille.

The passion of the editors

As professional criticism, especially the specialized literary press, loses audience and prestige, online recommendation and especially video can benefit from demand in this area. Above all, social networks, especially TikTok, take on the recommendation work, while also considering certain literary genres, romance and fantasy, often in the sense of young adulthood – which traditional criticism does not take into account. no or little.

READ: TikTok Book Club: app launches its own book club

The publisher has fully understood this emerging niche and is increasingly interested in promotional operations in these channels, if they are not necessarily free, to reach a larger and more interested public. . Emphasis on zero kilometerstitle to feel good an influencer specializing in personal development that combines storytelling and personal development is most effective when done with an audience sensitive to the topic.

Penguin Random House, supported by the multinational Bertelsmann, the world’s most powerful publishing group, intends to take advantage of this communication channel and, in cooperation with TikTok, has developed a tool to collect all videos related to a certain topic on one page. title and provide an easier way to get it. The tool is only available for Penguin Random House titles.

This collaboration between PRH and TikTok may, however, paradoxically foreshadow the network’s loss of relevance in terms of book recommendations. ” At first I thought the tool might be useful. Then it seemed a little borderline to me, this mega publisher wants to take over all American homes and additionally wants BookTok “, comments with TikTokeuse Haley Thomas RollingStone.

TikTokeurs like Haley Thomas are also concerned about the PRH tool and how TikTok could affect partnerships between publishers and content creators and the premium paid to the latter. ” I really find it hard to be happy to see these giants making money on our backs. I would like to see those who put so much effort, passion and hard work into original creations compensated accordingly ” Haley explains Thomas again.

With this special ad for a single editorial team, TikTok seems to have changed its rules in terms of book recommendation: give content creators complete freedom. The same freedom was reflected in a certain spontaneity, in the illumination of works from the fund, and in equally unexpected successes. This risks disappearing with the formalization of partnerships with publishers, on both the brand and creative side, or with certain titles being artificially highlighted by algorithms.

Such is the life of social networks: spaces of freedom and creativity are ossified as advertising, marketing operations and content controls proliferate, like Facebook or YouTube. Suffice it to say, time is running out for TikTok.

All sales figures for this article are from Edistat.

Photography: illustration by Solen Feyissa, CC BY-SA 2.0

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